Obamacare to Jack Up Insurance Premiums

by Gerri Willis

If you haven't already heard from your employer about open enrollment -- well, brace yourself. Premiums are high and rising. According to a survey from the National Business Group on Health, employers  expect their health insurance costs to increase 7%. And, 60% of those employers plan to ask workers to pay higher monthly premiums.

Case in point, Wal-Mart stores - the Bentonville, Arkansas based retailer and the nation's largest employer - will ask employees to pay premiums that are eight% to 36% more next year. The company has said if you average costs over the more than one million employees who are covered - workers' contributions will rise just 4.4%. According to an Aon Hewitt survey, premiums will rise 9% on average nationally. 

Wal-Mart says it is trying to cope with rising medical costs which make up a huge chunk of the retailer's costs. The company has gone so far as announcing the opening of six health centers where it will offer free heart and spine surgery to most employees.

Even so, many employees are expected to drop coverage because of the higher costs. 

Wal-Mart's most popular associate-only medical plan will cost $17.40 per two-week pay period in 2013, up $2 from 2012. Average plan cost across the country is $79 dollars per month for single coverage. Wal-Mart's moves are seen as a blueprint for other employers who are trying to manage their costs while also preparing to meet the requirements of Obamacare. 

Remember, health-care reform was supposed to keep costs low and quality of care the same or better. But increasingly, it's clear the industry is changing dramatically even before all parts of the law go into effect. What's more, the unintended consequences aren't good. Obamacare was supposed to ensure everyone gets covered while keeping costs low, but already Wal-Mart employees are saying they will drop out of company plans - meaning more people will burden emergency rooms. And costs aren't declining; they are rising.

You have to admire Wal-Mart for being so creative and so even-handed -- the brass in Bentonville are offered the same health plan as warehouse workers in Cincinnati, Ohio.

But the story exposes Obamacare for what it is -- a plan without a vision for doing what's needed. 

Obamacare may be the law of the land. But it should be overturned. 

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Obamacare's Most Crowd-Pleasing Parts Are Actually the Most Disastrous

by Gerri Willis

I've had my share of criticism of Obamacare - well, maybe more than my share - but now we're beginning to find out even the parts of the law people seem to like are just creating new problems.

Take the part that would let kids stay on their parent's health plan until age 26. Despite what the administration thinks, that coverage isn't free.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the cost is as much as $3,400 per kid each year.

Insurers just pass that back onto the companies giving their employees benefits. What's the outcome?

Employers stop offering it.

One of the largest union-administered health insurance funds is now dropping dependent coverage for 30,000 employees. That's thousands of children that are losing insurance, all thanks to Obamacare's "expanded coverage."

So maybe the college-age kids should turn to their schools' student health plans, but that's turning into another disaster.

Colleges across the country are giving up their student health plans.

They've calculated the higher levels of coverage required by Obamacare would increase the cost of premiums by as much as a thousand percent.

And students at some Catholic universities are losing all their insurance because the schools have a moral objection to the requirement they offer contraceptive coverage.

Think you can just buy an individual plan for your kid? Think again.

The ban on discriminating against children with pre-existing conditions has been driving insurers out of the market.

Insurers in 20 states have given up offering child-only insurance plans.

So government regulations meant to protect kids are now punishing them.

And what about the promise that insurance would be cheaper?

The Cato Institute calculates Obamacare has already added 2%-3% to premium prices, and we're just starting to see these policies go into effect.

It's only going to get a lot worse. In the next four years, individuals will see their premiums go up 19% to 30%.

This estimate doesn't come from opponents of the law.

This is the updated projection from the MIT economist who designed the law.

Talk about unintended consequences.

The common thread in all of these Obamacare disasters is they're the result of the President promising us something for nothing.

But there's no such thing as a free lunch.

Someone has to pay, and it's us.

The rising cost of health care is one of the country's biggest problems, but it should be obvious making insurance more expensive isn't a solution.It’s just a bigger problem. 

Obamacare's Empty Mandates

by Gerri Willis

Remember Cracker Jacks' surprise inside? Well Obamacare has it too - and it's a lulu.

Turns out, the government has no way to enforce the individual mandate - the tax that scofflaws have to pay for failing to get health insurance coverage.

That's right. There is no penalty in the law for refusing to pay the tax. So that unlike paying income taxes, if you don't get coverage, the IRS cannot seize your bank accounts or dock your wages. They can't even charge you interest on unpaid penalties!

So how is the IRS going to enforce it? I can only guess. Scary letters? Phone calls? Maybe the threat of withholding your tax refund? Of course, if you calculate your taxes so you don't get a refund, bye-bye mandate!

And the tax for failing to get coverage is not nothing.

By 2016, when the mandate is fully in place, the levy is $695 per each uninsured adult, or 2.5% of family income, up to $12,500, based on the average American's tax filing from 2010.

That works out to $1,400 per uninsured adult for the full penalty. The CBO estimates 4 million people will be on the hook unless, of course, they just decide not to pay.

Truly the emperor has no clothes - or more to the point the law has no teeth.

It gives a whole new meaning to Nancy Pelosi's now famous analysis of how we would come to know what is in the 2,409 pages of the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."

“We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy."

But this doesn't mean you're getting off scot-free.

In fact, taxpayers will shell out between $5 and $10 billion to bolster the IRS’ collection efforts. As many as 16,500 new IRS agents will be needed, according to a report from House Ways and Means Committee Republicans.

And it's all for Obamacare's new tax bureaucracy. A bureaucracy without the power to actually do its job - enforce the mandate.

Of course, Congress could easily change that by passing a bill, but I wouldn't count on Republicans in the House agreeing to another Obamacare tax - since there are already 20.

In fact, the day after the Supremes handed down their decision on Obamacare, Republican governors were already taking advantage of an obscure part of that decision to save money.

Florida's Rick Scott was the first, and at least seven other Republican governors have joined him in rejecting the Medicaid expansion - including one today, Texas's governor Rick Perry.

This is Obamacare in a nutshell. A pack of dictates - thou shalt buy insurance, thou shalt expand Medicaid - but nothing to actually back it up.

It's a trillion-dollar paper tiger that still threatens to change the way you get health care.

Drug Pushers

by Gerri Willis

The British drug company GlaxoSmithKline today pled guilty to the largest health-care fraud in U.S. history. It was also hit with the biggest fine ever - $3 billion dollars.

The Justice Department sued the company for fraud for the way it marketed some of its biggest prescription drugs like Paxil and Avandia.

The government's investigation was nationwide and involved several agencies, including the FBI.

Prosecutors said the company paid doctors to attend lavish conferences, including spa sessions, to promote off-label uses for its drugs - uses not approved by the FDA.

For instance, Glaxo illegally promoted the use of the antidepressant Paxil for children while the drug is only approved for adults.

It also pled guilty to marketing another anti-depressant called Wellbutrin as a weight-loss drug. It even pushed it as a cure for erectile dysfunction!

The government said Glaxo’s sales representatives called Wellbutrin “the happy, horny, skinny pill.”

Even when the company got the drug right - it got it wrong.

The government accused Glaxo of failing to report the risks of its diabetes drug Avandia - the risk being it could kill you.

The company was also accused of going to extreme lengths to push its pills, including producing bogus studies, putting together sham advisory boards and paying millions of dollars in kickbacks to doctors to write prescriptions.

Glaxo was also found guilty of ripping off Medicaid, and that's another one of the reasons the drug companies have become prime targets for federal prosecutors.

Glaxo has now promised to change its ways, and I certainly hope they do. It's discouraging when a company which proclaims its strategy is to help all of us "do more, feel better, live longer" cheats and lies to sell its products.

This isn't the old world of health care. It's the new one! And it leads to a question: if pharmaceutical companies had a fraud problem before Obamacare became the law, how bad will it be after the rest of the new health-care law is implemented?

Because, let's face it, if there is any fraud problem in health care today it's the billions that are stolen out of Medicare and Medicaid every year.

More government and government-like programs means more rip-offs of tax dollars. That's my forecast!

Obama's Big Deception

by Gerri Willis

As we've been reporting on our show, the Supreme Court will issue its ruling on Obamacare this Thursday.

The President says he's “confident this will be upheld because it should be upheld,” meaning the High Court will uphold it because he says it's the right thing to do.

But the American people disagree. A new Reuters poll shows 56% of people are against the health-care overhaul. Among independents, that number is much higher, 73%!

It's easy to see why public opinion is solidly against it.

People are beginning to realize they were sold a bill of goods - none of which is turning out to be true.

As we wait for the justices' decision, it's important to remember many of the deceptions and accounting tricks that got us to where we are today.

Remember then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying this when Democrats were trying to gain up support for the bill's passage:

“We have to pass the bill so that you can – uh - find out what's in it, away from the fog of controversy.”

The fog has lifted and we know exactly what's in it. Here were the main selling points on Obamacare:

First, it would bring down the cost of health care. The President said families would save on average $2,500 a year on their premiums.

We now know that's not the case.

According to the “Kaiser Family Foundation,” Obamacare has already increased the cost of health care even though most of the law hasn't even gone into effect. Kaiser says 6 out of 10 Americans will see their premiums go up with the average cost for families being $1300 a year.

Costs going up, not down.

Here's the second big lie. You can keep your own insurance and doctor... remember when Obama said this?

“If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

Wrong again.

The latest report from “The Congressional Budget Office” and “The Joint Committee on Taxation” says up to 20 million Americans could lose their employer-provided health insurance - a direct result of Obamacare.

The other big lie was the price-tag.

The CBO says the health-care law will cost $1.76 trillion over a decade - that's double what the President said it would cost. He's off by about $800 billion - not even close enough for government work.

We were even promised Obamacare would cut the deficit! Harry Reid said it wouldn't add a dime to the deficit! There are many more of course… including the 'no new taxes' pledge.

The Supreme Court decides on Thursday if Obamacare lives or dies.

Until then, I agree with Vice President Joe Biden when he said,

“This is a big f**king deal.”

That's just the problem – it is big, and the American people can't afford it and don't want it.

Obamacare's Assault on States' Budgets

by Gerri Willis

While the rest of us have to wait until June, the justices of the Supreme Court now know the outcome of the historic Obamacare hearings.

After months of anticipation, thousands of pages of briefs and more than six hours of arguments the justices voted on the future of the health care overhaul law today.

There was no debate - just the casting of votes. Only the nine justices were present. So why are we waiting until June?

The justices have weeks to read each other's draft opinions and dissents, and then they can change their vote if they want to.

No one’s vote counts more than the others, but it seems the outcome of the case will hinge on Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy. But based on what we heard from the justices this week, the individual mandate could be in trouble.

And that would be welcome news for states struggling to stay afloat under the burden of Obamacare. The law assigns heavy Medicaid costs to states.

According to the National Governors Association, states are facing a collective $95 billion budget shortfall this year.

And, if the required Medicaid expansion under Obamacare adding more than 26 million people goes through, another $118 billion will be added to that shortfall. Before the expansion, the low-income health program makes up a quarter of state budgets.

An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today by four current senators and former governors outlined just how bad things are going to be for states if the Supreme Court doesn't strike down Obamacare.

Lamar Alexander of Tennessee described how Obamacare will cost his state another $1.1 billion through 2019.

Mike Johanns of Nebraska says in three years the shortfall created by the Medicaid mandate will be greater than the entire Nebraska State Patrol's entire budget!

John Hoeven of North Dakota describes an even bigger problem.

It's not just a budget buster, this mandate will expand Medicaid beneficiaries by 50 percent, and that means fewer people will have access to care because there aren't enough doctors in the state who take Medicaid!

And Jim Risch of Idaho says more than a quarter of the state's entire population will then be on Medicaid adding a quarter of a billion dollars by 2020.

It's not just these states that are in trouble. While in Washington this week, I spoke with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who's leading the states' fight against Obamacare.

"I can tell you after 2018, this is a conservative estimate, a very conservative estimate, it will cost Floridians over $1b a year. And that is unsustainable for our state."

This unsustainable mandate leaves states with two choices: cut funding from other programs like education or veterans programs, or raise taxes.

Is this really what President Obama had in mind when he designed this massive law?

It's like this administration governs with blinders on. They only focus on what they want, and to hell with the consequences.

Obamacare's Future

by Gerri Willis

Our three-day adventure in Washington D.C. this week was instructive not just for what we learned about Obamacare, but also for what we learned about the Supreme Court and how it operates.

We spent hours on the steps of the courthouse waiting to talk to people who had been granted access to the hearings. Watching the scores of people run down the flights of marble steps to talk to reporters was an amazing sight.

The secrecy around the hearings made it feel a little like we were waiting for a pope to be chosen.

It's strange in this country for any public institution to keep itself so under wraps.

After all, nearly every American institution today, the Federal Reserve included, has tried to make itself more open to the public.

If Ben Bernanke can hold a press conference, why not the Supremes?

Unfortunately, we will have to wait until at least June to get their formal opinion, but according to no less an expert than Senator Mike Lee, we may get indications of which way the wind is blowing before that.

"This Friday, the justices will meet in their conference room, just the nine justices no law clerks, no secretaries or anyone else. They'll vote in order of seniority - the chief justice voting first and the most junior justice voting last. And they'll make a preliminary decision."

And according to Lee, who watched his father argue cases before the court and then clerked for Judge Alito, there is a good chance the court will declare the individual mandate unconstitutional.

"I think based on what I saw today, it's likely. A lot of my reason for saying that has to do with not just the questions asked by Justice Kennedy, but also his cadence, his intonation, his body language, his facial expressions while asking the questions and in response to the answers he received to his questions. They indicated a high degree of skepticism about Congress' authority to enact the individual mandate."

Unfortunately, what we learned in Washington is the damage may already be done.

One doctor we interviewed said the consolidation among health care companies is already making health care more expensive and accessibility to doctors more difficult:

"I’m sure the CEOs of many of these insurance companies today are very nervous on what happened this morning. Because if the mandate falls through, then they have to eat the cost of taking on all of these people and it becomes unsustainable. It's chaos."

"It's terrible. They've had to foot the bill to go and implement electronic medical records. They now have to consolidate and get paid less and go into the administrative hassles to be managed by an insurance company. They have to see more patients and reimbursements going down. There's nothing good that has happened with doctors."

The tragedy of Obamacare is not just it is an unworkable plan for health care in this country - it's that it has taken a system most notable for being overpriced and made it more expensive.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi who was the critical figure in the Obamacare fight also spoke to us.

She led the suit filed by 26 state attorneys general seeking to find the requirement that every American buy a health insurance policy unconstitutional.

She says Obamacare is simply unaffordable for her state.

"I can tell you after 2018, this is a conservative estimate, a very conservative estimate, it will cost Floridians over $1b a year. And that is unsustainable for our state."

It won't be just Florida which will struggle to pay for Obamacare.

Every state and every household will have troubling swallowing the costs.

Let's hope the justices do the right thing.

D.C. Trip: It's a Wrap!

by Gerri Willis

Spending three days at the Supreme Court covering the Obamacare hearings was a dream assignment for us at The Willis Report. I wanted to show some of the pictures you may have missed earlier in the week and tell you a little bit about the Fox Business team in Washington that made our trip possible.

Rich Edson, Gerri Willis, and Peter Barnes

First and foremost, the reporting team is top notch. Peter Barnes and Rich Edson are smart, dedicated journalists who know Capitol Hill inside and out. I spent a fair amount of time on the steps of the Supreme Court along with hundreds of protestors and many legislators - trying to interpret what was going on inside the hallowed chambers of the court. Everywhere I went, people asked me about our reporters. One long-time legislator told me that Barnes was the only reporter he trusted on the hill and that his rolodex and background knowledge were without comparison. It's people like Peter Barnes that make me proud to work at our network.

Jena Mihalovic, Marty Schnurr, Kevin Burke, Chris DiLella, Gerri Willis, Rich Edson, Christian Galdabini

There were lots of other people who were integral to our effort in D.C. Much thanks to Jena Mihalovic, Bruce Becker, Susan Garraty, Christian Galdabini, Rick Suddeth, Jim Suddeth, Mary Kreinbihl, and everyone else back at the bureau and on the field!

Thanks for making our trip a success!

The Road We Really Traveled

by Gerri Willis

An exciting event tonight: the premiere of the 17-minute documentary about President Obama’s first three years in office: 'The Road We Traveled'.

It's narrated by academy-award-winner Tom Hanks.

Here's the trailer: http://youtu.be/NXtJhLUOFXE

Stirring stuff, huh?

Three years later, and all the Administration's got to show is 17 minutes of accomplishments?

That's shorter than a sitcom without the commercials.

Makes you wonder how much footage they had to leave on the cutting room floor.

Here are the President's three major achievements you won't hear in tonight's movie.

I call it, “The Road We Really Traveled.”

When President Obama took office, unemployment was 7.8 percent. It rose to 10 before now settling at 8.3 percent.

Remember his administration said the stimulus would keep unemployment under 8 percent.

The great recession killed more than eight million jobs.

They say we're years into the recovery now, but we've only gotten two million jobs back.

That's a six million job deficit.

Thanks.

The President's next major accomplishment? Passing Obamacare.

A landmark case of government overreach, one that puts the entire U.S. health care system as we know it at risk. Your healthcare decided by Washington bureaucrats, not your doctor.

I'll have more details on how the costs are spiraling out of control later in the show.

And accomplishment number three: more than doubling the price of gas.

Yes, doubled.

You wouldn't think that would be possible to do to a vital commodity, but when you believe in hope and change, when you want to force Americans to buy unproven electric cars, when you "just say no" to American drilling, that's what you get.

Congratulations, Mr. Obama.

I'm sure your new movie will be a real blockbuster.

Now, if you could just stop busting America’s recovery, I’d be grateful.

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